Native to Java (an island of Indonesia), coleus loves the heat. Give it fertile, moist soil, some liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks, and a good Southern summer, and it will grow faster than the national debt.
Most older selections, such as those in the Wizard Series, fade and burn in full sun, but some newer types tolerate both sun and shade. They include the beautiful selections shown on these pages as well as the Florida Sun, Solar, Stained Glassworks, and Sunlover Series. Older types also sprout antenna-like flower spikes all summer, which detract from the foliage. But the new sun coleus bloom very little, keeping all eyes on the prize.
How can you avoid losing your prize when a frost finally threatens in fall? One way is to root a cutting. Though coleus root quickly in water during summer, in fall they do better in potting soil. Dip the cut ends in rooting powder, and stick them into moist soil. Provide the bright light of a windowsill, and they should make it through winter. But even if they perish, don't feel cheated. You got lots of show for a little dough.
"Colorful Coleus " is from the June 2003 issue of Southern Living.